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Cellist Yo-Yo Ma hosting virtual event with U-M on Thursday

‘Travel Guide for Talking Hearts’ open to public

Yo-Yo Ma performs for an Ann Arbor audience at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium during a Feb. 2019 visit.
Yo-Yo Ma performs for an Ann Arbor audience at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium during a Feb. 2019 visit. (Eric Bronson | Michigan Photography)

ANN ARBOR – Renowned cellist and current artist in residency at the University of Michigan, Yo-Yo Ma and other artists will hold a free virtual event open to the public on Thursday, Sept. 23.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and prior registration is required.

During the event, Ma will be joined by Michigan artists Avery Williamson, Nour Ballout, Tunde Olaniran and four U-M students to explore -- and map -- the emotional journeys people have undergone during the past eighteen months under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The artists have developed travel guides for the event which will allow each audience member to create their own “heart map” marking relationships, rituals, isolation and grief experienced since March 2020.

The “Travel Guide for Talking Hearts” event is presented in partnership with the U-M Arts Initiative and UMS.

Yo-Yo Ma (left) and Tunde Olaniran on stage during his "Day of Action" in Flint, Michigan in Feb. 2019, organized in partnership with the University of Michigan's University Musical Society. (E.Bronson/Michigan Photography)

Olaniran initially proposed the idea of a “heart map” following informal, collaborative discussions.

“During the pandemic relationships combusted, and the way you would normally process grief—whether it’s the passing of a loved one or the end of a relationship—would be in a community, but during the pandemic we couldn’t do that,” Ballout, a Detroit-based artist, curator and lead artist on the project said in a release. “I wanted to create a ritual for this healing.”

Read: Yo-Yo Ma joins University of Michigan for new residency spanning all three campuses

“‘The Travel Guide for Talking Hearts’ shows how bringing powerhouse creators to campus can help our community understand how we and others have navigated this exceptionally challenging time,” Arts Initiative co-chair Jonathan Massey, dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, said in a release.

Ma began his residency in April to explore the past year under the pandemic within the U-M community through the arts.

According to a U-M release, other components of the “Travel Guide for Talking Hearts” project include:

  • A virtual Talking Hearts portal, where community members are encouraged to submit their experiences, either through written responses to selected prompts or through audio or video clips.
  • Talking Hearts Drawing Guide: Offers prompts and drawing exercises to help people make their own heart maps.
  • Talking Hearts Conversation Guide: Intended to encourage conversations that build and strengthen relationships and that normalize connecting with—and caring for—the people around us. The guide was crafted in collaboration with Wolverine Wellness.
  • Billboards and bus banners to be displayed throughout Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint featuring “heart map” art by local artists Williamson, Cyrah Dardas and Amanda Edwards, as well as select students from each campus.
  • A series of live, in-person performances with regional artists will kick off with Dani Darling on Sept. 24 at Ingalls Mall. Performances by mBtheLight Blaire and Natasha Thomas will be announced on the Flint and Dearborn campuses soon. They are pop-up events intended to meet students where they are as they walk through campus.
  • Students working on the project have documented it from their perspective in the Talking Hearts blog.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.